The Defense Ministry established on Monday the Space Operations Squadron, the Self-Defense Forces’ first unit dedicated to outer space.

The squadron, part of the Air Self-Defense Force, will monitor space debris and suspicious satellites to prevent collisions with Japanese satellites.

It will be based at the ASDF’s Fuchu base in Tokyo with an initial size of around 20 personnel, and is slated to grow to about 100 members in the future.

The unit will focus on training and cooperation with the United States and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to establish a space monitoring system in fiscal 2023. It will aim to launch a satellite for assessing the space environment by the end of fiscal 2026.

Defense Minister Taro Kono presented the unit flag to Lt. Col. Toshihide Ajiki at the ministry during a ceremony Monday.

“It is important to maintain our nation’s superiority in new domains, including space,” Kono said. “We must prepare quickly for monitoring space conditions.”

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